CINCINNNATI -- It wasn't exactly a Jeffrey Maier moment, but the spectator interference rule came into play at Great American Ball Park on Sunday.
Batting with one out in the second inning and the Reds already leading, 2-0, Cincinnati second baseman Ramon Santiago hit a Yovani Gallardo pitch to deep right field, where Milwaukee's Logan Schafer timed his leap. At the same time, a red-shirted fan reached his own glove over the wall and attempted a catch.
As the baseball fell to the ground, Schafer turned his gaze upward to see who had interfered. At the same time, Santiago circled the bases for what initially was ruled an inside-the-park home run. Not so fast. Brewers manager Ron Roenicke asked the umpires to confer, and crew chief Jerry Meals eventually initiated a review. After 3 minutes and 46 seconds, the call was overturned and Santiago was called out.
"It was the first time in my life I was truly confused in the outfield," said Schafer, who started because Ryan Braun had back spasms. "I literally was timing it the whole way, I knew I had it, I knew where the fence was and where I was and where my glove was going to be. I jumped up, waiting for it to come into my glove, and I just never felt anything.
"So I was like, 'Hmm.' That's why, when I came down, I was a little confused. I saw the ball come down, I looked up at the fans and was like, 'What just happened?' He was still running and [center fielder Carlos Gomez] was yelling at me to throw it in. … In retrospect, I probably should have just grabbed it and thrown it in anyway, just because I didn't know what was going on. I knew I had it off the bat. If it was playable, I knew I was going to catch it."
The rule in question was 3.16, which says:
When there is spectator interference with any thrown or batted ball, the ball shall be dead at the moment of interference and the umpire shall impose such penalties as in his opinion will nullify the act of interference.
APPROVED RULING: If spectator interference clearly prevents a fielder from catching a fly ball, the umpire shall declare the batter out.
A comment to the rule provides further clarification, stating that, "No interference shall be allowed when a fielder reaches over a fence, railing, rope or into a stand to catch a ball. He does so at his own risk. However, should a spectator reach out on the playing field side of such fence, railing or rope, and plainly prevent the fielder from catching the ball, then the batsman should be called out for the spectator's interference."
After the play, Schafer said the man put a hand over his heart in a conciliatory gesture, "and kind of said, 'My bad, my bad,'" Schafer said. "I'm surprised he was still there the rest of the game. Not to say I like fans getting kicked out. I don't think he did it with any negativity. I think he just was like, 'Here's the ball, I'll try and catch it.' Usually they kick people out, but he sat there and enjoyed the rest of the game. Good for him."
The stakes were higher when Maier, then 12, deflected a Derek Jeter fly ball into the seats during Game 1 of the 1996 American League Championship Series. In that instance, umpires ruled the play a home run, and the Yankees went on to win the game and the series.